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Beach Volleyball thrills central London

London's Horse Guards Parade was transformed into a world-class beach volleyball venue last week as it hosted the FIVB Beach Volleyball International in preparation for next year's Olympic Games.

The historic venue – which is located in central London, close to Buckingham Palace, Downing Street and Westminster Abbey – attracted a huge level of interest as it welcomed 24 leading teams from around the world from 9-14 August, giving the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) the chance to test one of its key temporary venues for next year's Games.

Among them also women beach volleyballers Linline Matauatu and Elwin Miller of Vanuatu, a group of islands some 1,700 kilometres off the coast of northern Australia, who finished in the top ten of the tournament’s final ranking. Until just a few years ago, making it to the Games would have been a mere dream for these two young mothers, but having received an Olympic Solidarity team grant to pay for equipment, travel and a professional coach, making it to the Games became a real possibility. Watch here how they are training and preparing for London 2012.

The event proved to be a great success, attracting praise from fans and athletes alike, with Brazilian pair Liliane Maestrini and Angela Vieira triumphing over Americans April Ross and Jennifer Kessy in the final. Vieira was particularly impressed with the venue and the host city in general.

“Everything was really nice,” she said. “Thank you to everyone who helped. I am thankful for the whole test of the Olympic event. It was pretty good, perfect. I have never been here before and I love London, love everyone and everything.”

The FIVB Beach Volleyball International forms part of the London Prepares series, which will see the British capital's Olympic venues play host to several world-class sporting events in the build-up to London 2012. The series is an integral part of LOCOG's preparations for the Games, enabling it to test the sporting field of play at each venue, as well as the results, timing and scoring systems.

The events also allow LOCOG to see how its teams work together and how people move around the venues, and David Luckes, Head of Sport Competition at LOCOG, was pleased with how the beach volleyball event went.

“The atmosphere was fantastic throughout the whole week,” he said. “Athletes, spectators and volunteers all talked about the amazing setting and the great time they all had. We successfully tested the field of play (including the sand), results systems, lighting and sport presentation. Bringing beach volleyball in this format to London is a first for the capital, the fact that it was in this iconic venue added to the appeal.”

Vicente Araujo, Technical Delegate and FIVB Beach Volleyball Commission secretary, added: “The media and spectator interest has been impressive and of course the spectacular setting of Horse Guards Parade has been inspirational, while the legacy of the sand, which will be used to create new beach volleyball courts, is also very important to us. The response of the athletes concerning the event has been very encouraging and thanks to the great crowd support, they have had a glimpse of what it will be like next year. Of course there are some areas where we will continue to liaise and fine tune with LOCOG but now after this extremely successful week we can focus on London 2012 with great confidence.”

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